Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Consider not “who” said it, but rather “what” is being said. This is one of the brilliant dictums of Imam ‘Ali (‘a)- the cousin and son-in-law of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Despite its brevity in encapsulates the key to access the vast treasures of knowledge. It literally unlocks the prejudice of so many people, and emancipates them from the dungeon of partial judgment.


  1. 'Abd al-Qadir Jilani, a Sunni Sufi, said exactly the opposite: 'The source from which this word is received has to be purified and cleansed of everything other than Allah, and whoever receives it should have the ability to differentiate between the words of one with a purified heart and those pronounced by the tongue of the common man. The receiver should also be aware of the way in which the word is pronounced, for words that sound the same way may mean totally different things. It is impossible that the word coming from a pure source be the same as the word coming from elsewhere'. (The Secret of Secrets, p.32) Can both statements be true?

  2. In the Name of Allah, the All-Beneficent, the All-Merciful
    There is no contradiction. The contexts rather are different. First of all let us understand the following before we explain the ambiguity of contradiction between Imam 'Ali ('a) and Abdul Qadir Jilani: Almighty Allah has availed us with an intellect to sift between right and wrong and truth and falsehood. This is so clear that everyone with a sound conscience approves. However, our abilities of distinction are limited, and thus there is need of guidance from those whom Allah appoints as His Messengers. When anyone tells us of something that is within the framework of our understanding, we are able to understand and judge what he said. If , for example, he were to say, "act justly, organize yourself according to your priorities, treat others with kindness, think before you speak, don't steal, identify your goal in life, etc." we would not say that let us first find out who is speaking, so that we know whether his words are correct or not. Al-Tirmidhi narrates from Abu Hurayra who narrates from the Holy Prophet (s): "A word of wisdom is the lost property of a believer, so WHEREVER he finds it, he is worthy of it." [Sunan al-Tirmidhi, vol.4, p. 155]. The Sunni scholar al-Suyuti mentions the same tradition in his Jaami' al-Saghir [v.2, p.302]. And al-Muttaqi al-Hindi in his voluminous collation Kanz al-‘Ummal also mentions a similar tradition with a slight difference saying, "The word of wisdom is a lost property of a believer, WHEREVER he finds it, he should take it". [v.10, p. 148; v.16, p.112]. There are many other references, but I would suffice with the aforesaid. In short, this clearly tells us that WHEREVER you find the word of wisdom, you are worthy of it. So take it. It also indirectly informs us that when you only find the WORD OF WISDOM is when you should take it, thus alluding to the fact that a sound human being can have the ability to decipher and know what a word of wisdom is.

    Now to summarize Jilani's statement:

    1) Source of the word must be pure
    2) Receiver of the word also must be pure [to differentiate between the word of a common man and the word of one with purified heart]
    3) Receiver should be knowledgeable about the way the word is pronounced
    4) It is impossible that the word coming from a pure source be the same as the word coming from elsewhere.

    If by word, he meant Divine Revelation then he has a point: The source who is Allah and His Angels are Immaculate and pure, and the receptacle who is Prophet Muhammad (s) is also pure and can differentiate between the word of a common man and the word of a purified heart.

    However, if by word he meant "any word or speech" then there are two kinds of words:

    1. Words of guidance, which the common intellect is able to comprehend independently. Here the source of the word is not an issue.
    2. Words of guidance, which the intellect cannot independently comprehend. Here the source of the word must be considered.

    Imam 'Ali bin Abi Talib alludes to the first kind of "words of guidance" and not the "second" for which a pure and immaculate personality is required.

    Also Jilani's statement "It is impossible that the word coming from a pure source be the same as the word coming from elsewhere." perhaps alludes to the fact that the words of belief that comes out of a pure person is quite different from the words of belief that come out from a non-believer.

    However remember a non-believer sometimes can speak of wisdom that every common mind assents. The leaders of corruption in today's world speak of "planning, organization, independence, justice, brotherhood, fraternity, helping the poor, empowering the destitute, etc". All these are words of wisdom many of which they do not believe. But I as a Muslim should not discard them saying "it did not come out from a pure heart". If the Western Atheists come up with wise solutions to many problems of material life [which if properly used is a blessing of Allah and a means to self-purification], should we discard them, and wait for the same from one who has a pure heart?